With My Love in Paris

Come on, you bitch – you could at least give me a bit of a challenge! A weekend in Paris and I don’t even get the urge? That’s just pathetic. I thought you’d try to dig your claws into me better than that, you pathetic loser. I expected a goddamn FIGHT! Instead, there I was, happily strolling down Rue de la bleu-blah-chopee-doux with the love of my life in the city of light without a care in the world and just enjoying our weekend. Turned out that the hardest battle was to stop myself from buying the bomber jacket from Diesel I’m lusting after so badly it’s driving me a little nuts. Here it is, the beauty:

d jacket

Just look – it’s so prettyyyyyyyyy and I want it so badly! That sexy thing is much harder to resist than alcohol – in fact, the more I look at the picture the more I want it and I keep picturing how great it’d look. Fuck, I really want it.

I mean, for fuck’s sake, that’s a little disappointing by anyone’s standards, non? I can only assume it’s down to all of that brain washing again how I expected it to be really tough to quit drinking. I quite honestly thought I’d be going through hell or at the very least struggle with it. Yet here I am, feeling better than ever (well, since my drinking got bad anyway, which is more than a decade ago) and so overjoyed to be feeling well and in the moment that it gets me emotional. Quitting drinking has brought no negatives, is what I’m trying to say. Only so many positives that counting my blessings is becoming a bit of a drag because there are so many.

On a serious note though, I do realise that it’s different for everyone. I suspect one of the main reasons why I have found quitting drinking the way I have is because I didn’t drink to numb my feelings or to get away from anything – I drank to enhance everything and when I finally realised it enhanced nothing but instead only caused me harm, it was mostly a relief to walk away. It’d be very different if I felt discomfort or pain sober and needed something to ease it – I do get that. However, I can only speak for myself and perhaps there is a place and a need for my voice too, a story that isn’t full of battles or a show of strength to get over it. I can tell you RIGHT NOW that I don’t do perseverance or strength. I am doing this because it has come easy. Immediately I woke up in the mornings feeling great – instant reward! Compare that with almost always waking up and feeling totally shit, unsteady and miserable. Bad tempered too. Within a couple of days when it was all out of my system I was free of the anxiety alcohol brings out in me and suddenly there is a Sophie I have missed so, so much: calm and contented Sophie.

There is part of me who doesn’t want to say these things. Part of me feels it’s disrespectful. I’ve sat in enough AA meetings and listened to endless stories of how difficult sobriety is and how some people really have to struggle and fight with all they have to stay away from the booze. In the face of that, I almost feel I should shut the fuck up. I still maintain that perhaps this is just the cunning nature of alcoholism, that I’m in some phase where the disease is luring me into some sense of security and getting me to think I’ve got it sussed, only to shoot me down with a well aimed large glass of Sauvignon Blanc with soda when I’m sufficiently cocky about my sobriety. BOOM! Down she goes, smug little bitch! I honestly don’t know. I can only say that I don’t want to drink because I know it doesn’t do to me what it does to non-alcoholics like, say, my husband. He had a beer with lunch over the weekend, then another before dinner and a couple of glasses of wine with his meal… …and that was it. No obsession or compulsion took over his mind and body and he was happy just like that, no burning desire or devil scratching at his throat. Even though I’m no longer drinking I all too well remember how I drank and could only look at him slightly bemused when he ordered a coffee with dessert. WTF, who DOES that? That’s when I’d be wanting to rush off, find the nearest bar and drink like it was a competition and then ensure there was plenty more back at the hotel to take me that last distance into the thick veils of black-out. But no – he is a normal drinker and to an alcoholic like me, it’s fascinating to watch even now. Like someone putting their hand on to a hot stove and not getting hurt by the heat.

But perhaps there is a space for my voice too and for my experience even though I have relatively few battle scars to show for it. What is certain is that I would have had the worst kind of scars and open wounds had I continued drinking, so maybe my story is very similar to many others and I was just fortunate to get the hell off that scary carousel before it had spun me right to a REAL hell.

I’ve not been to an AA meeting for over a month. I did want to collect the 3-month chip last week but.. ….didn’t. I still feel I should go. Not because I’m finding not drinking difficult but because it seems like That’s What You Do. Stupid, isn’t it? I’d happily recommend AA to anyone with a sincere wish to quit drinking and I know the program works wonders for a lot of people. I guess the main thing is to keep an open mind and not fight in either direction – don’t fight the program and don’t fight yourself. I fought myself there for a little while, tried to force myself into thinking it was the right thing (hell, in AA you get told it’s the ONLY thing so it’s sort of like you have no choice) despite some things not feeling right to me. I guess my view is do what feels right for you, be it AA or doing cartwheels. The idea of going still seems a bit …meh… so I guess I’ll go with the feeling and see what happens. I don’t need everything mapped out right this second, do I?

So, a weekend with my love in Paris didn’t make me want to drink – pretty spectacular, I’ll have to say! I booked it when I was still drinking back in early January. I always knew I’d eventually get to that point when I’d be done with the drinking because there was a long build-up and I was increasingly fed up with always feeling rotten, but I suppose I didn’t realise it’d happen THEN and Paris was almost my first thought following my decision that enough was enough: what about Paris?!!! Oh shit, what will I do then? I remember thinking perhaps that’d be my hall pass. It did seem like a problem to go away for a romantic weekend and not drink. I mean, what do you DO if you don’t drink when you’re in Paris? But there we are – I didn’t and what’s even better is that I didn’t feel like it. We had a wonderful time and not drinking never seemed like a bad thing. It was fucking FABULOUS to wake up in the morning and be full of energy and explore that beautiful city. Thank God I no longer drink! What was I thinking? So much time wasted. I’ve been in Paris before (drinking of course) but this time it actually felt like I was there. Ah, to be present – it’s good stuff.

Three months and one week now. 97 days sober. I just looked at that number when I’d typed it and got a little tear in my eye. Hi 97! I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you! Who would have thought we’d make it?

Today I won’t drink.

Seven Things

One Lovely Blog Award

What a lovely little surprise to discover when I logged on this morning! The wonderful wonderme12 nominated me so I will of course oblige and jump right in.

Rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you for the award.
  • Share seven things about yourself.
  • Nominate 7 other bloggers.

Seven things about me:

  1. My name isn’t Sophie. This is a little ridiculous as I’ve been very open with both friends and family – even my employers – when it comes to having quit drinking and the reasons why. OK, so I haven’t said the A-word to my bosses or to my very conservative father, but I’ve been pretty straight up about quitting due to an unfortunate inability to stop drinking when I start. With or without the A-word that is the crux of it. Still, alcoholic is a label that sticks and whilst I wear it with pride, I am protecting my loved ones who may want to choose for themselves if they want to declare that their daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend etc is a roaring drunk.
  2. I was born on Friday 13th. It was a leap year and my mother worried I’d be born on the 29th of February. According to statistics it is more likely to go over your due date with your firstborn, but I arrived three weeks early on a day some consider unlucky. Well, I’ve always been impatient. Still, I was a sturdy little unit even back then, clocking in at an impressive 9lbs despite my early arrival and had a thick mahican of black hair. In Scandie folklore there are stories of how the trolls would steal your baby and replace it with one of their own. To this day, Mum calls me her troll baby and although my hair soon turned blond like the rest of the family the first photos do quite literally look like there is no way that baby could possibly belong to my delicate, blond mother with her ivory skin as she awkwardly held me. I looked like a cross between a sumo wrestler and a cherokee with my rolls of fat, black hair and red skin.
  3. I have always preferred solitude, much happier on my own than in groups or part of social situations – no idea why and it’s nothing to do with being shy or anything, it’s just how I’m wired I guess. What turned out to be the great big love of my life then came along and turned my world upside down. I stressed a bit over sharing my life with anyone apart from my son and didn’t much like the idea of always sharing a bed – fucking hell, always having someone THERE – yet now I can’t even sleep without that stupid Kiwi’s long arms and legs all tangled up with mine. Weirdly, I don’t even want to throttle him when he keeps talking when I’m reading my book. Must be love, eh!
  4. Back to my mother…. She has always been super girly and did her best to transform her troll baby to something resembling cute. She kept buying dolls but I just didn’t understand what to do with them and much preferred to run around in the woods or play with all the boys (nothing ever changed there, then). Mum insisted on putting curls in my hair and putting me in dresses, then went and embroidered a sun and flowers on my cool dungarees and totally ruined my street cred. When we played cowboys and indians the boys made me be an indian as I was the only one with long hair. In protest I hid behind the kitchen doors and cut it off using a pair of nail scissors. Mum cried when she took her miniature Sid Vicious to the hairdressers but I was adamant that no boy was EVER going to tell me I couldn’t carry a gun.
  5. It went on from there. When friends liked New Kids on the Block and other chart pop, I listened to Twisted Sister and wanted a snake for a pet. My dream man was Gene Simmons. I feel really sorry for my mother when I think back on all this – if only I could have allowed her to put ONE little pink bow on me. Just the one. I’m going to call her and tell her I love her right this minute.
  6. I saw Prince William, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in real life yesterday! We were at a ceremony at Westminster Abbey for ANZAC day (hubby is from New Zealand) and I was a little star struck, which I didn’t expect as I normally don’t give a shit about stuff like that but it was pretty cool. I’ve seen the Queen from a distance at Royal Ascot and also the King and Queen of Sweden at a concert at Dalhalla. And I accidentally bumped into what turned out to be Michael Hutchence on Kings Road in the summer of 1995, mumbled ‘sorry’ and it was only when my friend frantically pulled at my arm and tried to keep her voice down trying to whisper to me who it was that I realised so I only really saw the back of him but apparently it was him. I touched Michael Hutchence’s arm! Or it was just a random hippie – I do remember half long wavy hair and that the dude wore something that looked like pyjama bottoms. Actually, I don’t have any celebrity stories that are half interesting..
  7. I’m an alcoholic. This isn’t news if you’ve been in on this blog before but I think it should be one of my seven things. I have been sober three months and three days! It’s mostly been fairly plain sailing but I think that’s because I quit drinking when I really felt done with it as opposed to being forced to stop somehow. Who knows. Anyway, so yes, I’m a drunky drunk-drunk. I used to drink and now I don’t. That’s it, really. I don’t like what it does to me and a dream I had in the last week or so just about summed it up. I do get those once in a while, dreams where I’m drinking and in them it’s always a case of it starting when I’ve already had some so I can’t do anything about it – in the dream I’m already drinking and this means I can’t stop. It really illustrates my powerlessness. Remember this, bitch? Oh yeah, half way through a glass of wine and you will soon guzzle your way to blackout and it’s too late to do anything about it because you’re already on your way. I take those dreams, as shitty as they are, to be reminders in case I ever forget how much I really don’t want to drink again. Yay sobriety!

So, that was that. Left for me to do then is nominate seven other blogs, so here are seven writers who inspire me and whose blogs I regularly read:

How I Killed Betty

Sober Momma

Ultraviolet Sobriety

brittanybare

The Secret Life of Mrs Drunkerly

functioningguzzler

Leaving AA, Staying Sober

Time to get on with the day now – it’s hubby’s birthday tomorrow and I’m whisking him away for the weekend. Cannot WAIT! It’ll be so much fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun!

Today is too awesome to ruin by drinking so I won’t!

Almost Slipped Me By

You know, this is heading in exactly the direction I wanted it to with sobriety not being a big deal but just how I don’t want to drink any more than I want to eat dog shit – doesn’t need a fanfare each time I don’t, right? And so it hit me this morning as I drove to work and it made me grin from ear to ear because I had almost missed it: today is my three month anniversary of being sober.

There are two sides to this, really. On the one hand the 23rd of January is almost as important to me as my son’s birth date and my wedding day. I’d go as far as to say it’s bigger than Christmas and Midsummer put together. It’s HUGE. And it IS a big deal in some ways I cannot allow myself to minimise:

I was well underway with:

  1. Drinking myself to death – the fact that I am still here in spite of all the vin blanc I poured down my neck is astonishing.
  2. Ruining the lives of my son, my husband and anyone else who loves me.
  3. Scuppering any chances I had to make the most of whatever talents I have.
  4. Depriving myself of the joy that comes with truly living life (aka without the depressingly numbing effect of alcohol).
  5. Never allowing myself to be present in the moment.
  6. Letting life slip me by.
  7. Struggling through my days with terrifying hangovers.
  8. Making a dog’s dinner of most things including my job.
  9. Hurting my son irreversibly.
  10. Prioritising drinking above everything else without exception.

That list can be made endless but I think you get the gist. Alcohol was killing me – or rather I was killing myself by drinking – and destroying everything in my life bit by bit. My drinking wasn’t “a problem”, it was an all encompassing evil that was destroying me and everything around me – it was a death sentence and I was my own executioner. So the fact that I am now sober is a big fucking deal indeed. I absolutely acknowledge that not drinking has given me my life back. I got ME back and I’m so glad to have ME again that it makes me teary each time I pause to really feel what that’s like – honestly. I don’t in any way want to bat away my sobriety as unimportant or view it with a sense of nonchalance because I don’t want that to ever think back on my drinking as something that was no big deal because my drinking eclipsed everything else so it was MASSIVE. And the two go hand in hand, don’t they? My mother doesn’t drink whatsoever, has never got drunk in her life. She and I are both sober, right? Yet I’m sure you agree that there’s a huge difference.

Like me, I know my mother ADORES her morning coffee. It’s a whole ritual for her, as it is for me. But I doubt my mother closes her eyes for a moment when she takes that first sip and smiles contentedly at how grateful she is for the moment. Maybe she does? Maybe that’s why she prefers a few moments to herself in the morning with her coffee? Maybe that’s what all people freaking do but I was drinking too hard to realise and now think this is down to how I missed out on life for so long that I now feel such happiness at facing each new day with that first mug of coffee in my hand. But do you see what I mean? Sobriety isn’t a THING for my mum. It’s just life because she never made any attempt to ruin her life by drinking so why would NOT drinking have any significance whatsoever? Just like not using heroine isn’t a thing for me because I never used it, let alone almost died because of it. So sobriety is bound to hold so much more for me than for someone like my mother for whom it was never an unobtainable thing. I honestly didn’t think I’d get sober, not because I ever found it hard not to drink (if I hadn’t already had that first one, that is) but because I never felt like not drinking. So there is a huge difference in what sobriety means for me as an alcoholic and for someone who never had a problem with booze.

So why did it make me so happy that my three month anniversary of being sober almost passed me by?

Because the biggest difference is the most important: I no longer want to drink. I can’t stand the idea of it and everything that would come with it. Well. I think this is why AA just didn’t click (or hasn’t to date anyway) for me. It was driving me crazy to focus so much energy on something I realised I didn’t want to do. The key to my sobriety isn’t a morning prayer or taking it one day at a time or calling fellow alcoholics – the key to my sobriety is finally seeing alcohol for what it is and realising it did nothing for me. And why in God’s name would I bother doing something that 1) would do nothing for me, but rather 2) bring lots of shit. According to AA, it’s the AA way or self will. Well, I’m not using either, thank God, and I can’t even begin to tell you how liberating that is. When you get to that point you’re truly free. Well, for ME that’s freedom, and obviously I’m the only alcoholic I can speak for. Focusing on something, struggling not to do something or having to get to meetings and/or make phone calls to stop you from doing this thing you’re trying not to do is not freedom to me. Nor is wanting to do it but having to stop yourself. I couldn’t live like that and it’s another thing I’m very grateful for that I don’t have to. So in that way, I am really happy that being sober is for me now just… …life.

Went to our favourite pub last Friday and sat on the wall by the river. It never even occurred to me that I wasn’t having wine because it’s just How It Is. Just like it didn’t first occur to me this morning that, oh, here’s this milestone of me not drinking because not drinking is just How It Is. And that’s what I want. That it’s just how life is. Sophie doesn’t like raisins and bananas. In her free time she enjoys long walks, writing and making jewellery. She used to drink and now she doesn’t so make that a Virgin Mary with a good kick to it. Questions on that? Actually, we’re not going to do a Q&A because we already elaborated more than we needed to for your benefit. There – that’s all there needs to be to it.

So it’s finding the balance, really. I don’t want to dismiss my sobriety as it is precious to me and I am stupidly grateful that it burst into my life and gave it back its colour the way it has. I never want to forget just how deep I was into the quicksilver sand of alcoholism because the moment I do would be the moment I might end up thinking I can drink like a non-alcoholic and THAT CAN NEVER AND MUST NEVER HAPPEN. I also know that if I focus on sobriety lots I will inevitably think about drinking lots. I suppose the ideal scenario would be for life to continue the way it is right now, when I clearly remember where drinking was taking me and feel grateful for life but when drinking just happens to be something I don’t want to do any more than I want to eat raisins. At the same time, the more of A THING sobriety is, the less likely – surely – I am to drink, right? I tell people quite openly including my family and I’m not even shying away from the A-word. So in lots of ways, I am the one making my sobriety very much A THING. If nothing else I’ve then created lots of obstacles for myself should I ever lose my mind and want to drink again? Oh, I don’t know.

Then I remembered…. What I have now is what someone like my mother has had all along – it’s life when you allow yourself to live and feel it. And THAT, my friends, is an enormous fucking deal. I’ll raise my glass of soda water to that any day. And the day I no longer smile and feel grateful for another day as I drink my morning coffee, slap me and remind me of just how sweet this life is and how close I came to missing out. I just find it hard to think I’d ever forget what my drinking did to my life.

Who knows? But… Today I’m not going to drink.

Very Little Ice Hockey

It’s another sunny day here in London and my shoulders are a bit red from yesterday’s walk around the park coupled with this year’s first sprinkling of freckles across my nose. The only downer is work and I lost the will to live as soon as I got in. I do need to grab life with both hands now instead of this ridiculous bobbing along, as comfortable as it has been mostly. There is nothing I can complain about – my job is a nice one, the pay is reasonable, it’s close to home and my bosses are super lovely – but I’m making a dog’s dinner of it because for some reason I’m just not pulling myself together. I should do exactly what hubby told me – JUST GET ON WITH IT – and I do, hand on heart, have the intention to do just that every goddamn morning, but then I look at it all and it just seems so pointless. I must be a terrible person because lots of people are in jobs that in no way resemble their passions and yet pull themselves together and do what they do really well. Why don’t I? Am I just a spoilt brat who’s spitting her dummy out when things aren’t exactly the way she wants them? Quite possibly.

No more procrastination now. It’s been a lot of talk and very little ice hockey for yours truly. I can talk about my would-be book for hours. I can discuss my characters and every arch of the story in great detail and it’s quite often that I come up with yet more detail and different turns for their paths to take, yet…. Equally, I talk and talk about selling the jewellery I make. And yet…. It’s all talk. Is it a fear of failure? I have no idea but this can’t go on because it’ll drive not just me but everyone around me crazy too eventually. Why am I only talking – and not DOING – these things that are 100% within my grasp? OK, so perhaps not the would-be book but I’ll never find out if I don’t fucking write it, will I? The jewellery though – I have probably 20 pieces, rings and necklaces, that are good enough (some I’d even say are gorgeous) to sell. So why don’t I? The short term goal isn’t even an ambitious one! I just need to sell roughly 15 pieces a month to match my income and that’s not exactly unrealistic. It’s time to just do it now, do what hubby says: JUST GET ON WITH IT.

Life is too short to waste on either doing something that feels pointless or being held back because of worry you’ll fail. No more of that shit. Hubby is spending tomorrow with the eldest boy, the middle one is at his mum’s and the youngest will in all likelihood take off to see friends so I have Saturday to take good photos of each piece and then freaking create those Facebook and Etsy pages. I like meaningful dates and I’d like to cram a bunch more into 2018 given I started the year by stumbling across that momentous day I’d longed for: Tuesday 23rd of January 2018, the day I started living again. And so Saturday 21st of April can be the day when I started doing again. Right? Let’s go! Haha, I just realised I’ve picked tomorrow. I was always all about ‘tomorrow’ when I was still drinking. I’ll quit tomorrow. Start Monday. Dry whichever month. Diet. Start running again. Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. Nah, I mean it this time, see? Hahaha, I always used to say that exact thing too. Do you have enough faith in me and the patience to believe me one last little time? The girl who cried ‘tomorrow’.

Life on the Pink Cloud continues to deliver and feel ridiculously good. Took hubby to our favourite pub on the river – where we met almost five years ago and where we celebrated our wedding almost a year ago – and enjoyed a pint of soda with fresh lime when he had a pint of cider. Weirdly, when I saw Willow earlier in the day I did for a few seconds have the image of wine pop into my head, yet sitting on the wall by the river the thought didn’t even enter my mind. Funny – Willow is precisely the sort of chick I would have loved drinking with. The thought quickly took me to the scenario it would have been though: thoroughly enjoying a couple of drinks and talking about stuff, but equally being taken over by the obsessive planning of how to get home, get wine on the way and drink my head to bits. It will never be what my alkie brain sometimes wants to make me believe – EVER. I’m a drunk. I can’t drink in that “normal” and enjoyable manner, unfortunately.

Blue is drinking but claims to have it at a level she is happy with. Ivy got in touch to say she was enjoying the sunshine yesterday and I imagine she is as usual analysing life in great detail, she’s a very introspective lady and likes to trace and untangle each thought.  Phoenix I assume is fine and Sparks too, along with those super star AA people who live by the Big Book and have it all figured out. Sophie is doing good in that she doesn’t want to drink so I suppose the world is how it should be just about now.

Sophie just needs to get her shit together. OK, so now we’re sober – hurrah and well done and whoop-dee-do – but it’s time to return from the honeymoon and get this show on the road now that we have a fully functioning brain in a body that feels steady and strong.

JUST GET ON WITH IT. 

Today I won’t drink.

Chatty Limoncello

Yup, spring is definitely here now after a few false starts. The Brits are a funny lot – you only need to glimpse a bit of sunshine and they immediately strip off. Having grown up in a country where we have something called “seasons” (winter = cold and snowy, summer = warm and sunny) it’s with amusement I observe the Brits and their absolute inability to dress according to the weather. Makes sense in a way, given the difference is barely 10 degrees between summer and winter. I have lost count of the times I’ve been asked when I’ve complained of feeling cold “but you’re from Sweden, you must be used to it”. There is a saying in Swedish that roughly translated goes “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes”. This sums it up. When it’s cold, we wrap up warm and when summer rolls in we, well, unwrap. I feel the heat and the cold as much as the next person, amazingly, but perhaps I suffer less as I dress accordingly. Who knows. Can’t wait to be back in flipflops though – yay summer!

Blue is drinking. We’d meant to meet up for a coffee but she never got in touch so I did wonder and I wouldn’t blame her if she felt I might judge, she met me via AA after all and there she found little hope. But she’s OK – at least she claims to be and it’s not for me to judge. Said in a text she’s currently drinking at weekends and not alone and would be happy if she can keep it this way. I told her ‘good for you’ and meant it. I know I can’t do that because I’ve tried it a million times and it’s always bled back into school nights, but if she can manage then that’s awesome. And only Blue can decide what works for her, unfortunately there is no size fits all when it comes to alcoholism and problem drinking. Perhaps she’s more of a problem drinker than an alcoholic? I’m definitely an alcoholic and I’m sure there are as many definitions of the word ‘alcoholic’ as there are alcoholics but I consider myself an alcoholic for one simple reason:

If I start drinking I cannot stop. 

Who knows, for Blue it might be different. Perhaps she doesn’t have that monster ruling her? Perhaps for Blue it’s just a matter of over indulgence and she just needs to make a conscious decision to keep it to weekends? I certainly won’t judge because I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. I can only speak for myself and in my case I have decided Weekends Only countless times only to find myself drinking every day of the week faster than you can say bottoms up. I told Blue I’d love to see her for a coffee but equally happy to go to the pub if she preferred a glass of wine – I’m quite used to soda water with lime by now and I’m happy that way.

It’s funny, I remember Phoenix sharing in a meeting once and she said she’s the kind of alcoholic who alcohol speaks to neh-neh-neh-neh if it’s around her or in the house. It pulls her to it and it’s dangerous, she cannot exist in a house where there is booze. That’s got to be shitty. Our place is full of booze. We must have – at a guess – at least ten bottles of wine in the wine rack, most are reds (which I don’t like) but there is ONE white and I know exactly which one as I spent one of my last drinking sessions drunkenly looking for it. My favourite too, a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. God, that pissed me off after I’d got sober and realised that fucker had been there all along! And then we have a cupboard full of other stuff – several bottles of champagne, Baileys, whiskys, Limoncello and other liqueurs. Oh, and a bunch of beers in the fridge that hubby drinks one or two of once in a while in his Normal Drinker kind of way. Anyway – none of it speaks to me but I wonder what it’d say if it did.

I’ve not been to an AA meeting for….. ..actually, I don’t know how long. Three weeks? I will have to go on Tuesday because Monday is my three-month anniversary and I sort of want to collect that chip. Then again…. I know it’s all down to me being in some sort of denial (I’m just an all-round bad human being) because it’s never clicked for me, this AA thing. I suppose it’s even less likely to now that I’m not even showing up for meetings though..!! It just didn’t work for me and if anything it kept alcohol in such focus I found I was unable to think of anything else. I’d start the day by praying, then read the ‘Just For Today’ card and the serenity prayer. Then during the day I’d call my sponsor and at least two other people and cram in a meeting too. And then I’d read the Big Book before bed, hopefully managing to give my hubby a seeing to before dedicating some time to Bill W before getting off to sleep. Even if you don’t work that would keep AA and sobriety your absolute focus. But that’s what they tell you to do – prioritise AA, something along the lines of putting AA first and then everything else in your life will be first class.

Has this been true for me? No. But as it says in the Big Book, this is because there is something wrong with ME. The only people AA won’t work for have something inherently wrong with them. We can’t be honest, we can’t be open and a bunch of other things that make us un-serene and incomplete human beings. I’m definitely on the naughty step.

I just feel, much like with the booze in our cupboards and the packet of Marlboro Menthol in the wicker basket (I quit smoking over a year ago), that any changes I make and any changes I maintain have to come from within me. I cannot live a life shackled to something or someone else to keep me at peace. That peace has to grow from inside my heart and soul, not be force fed down my throat or tie me to a routine I cannot deviate from. My long walks in the park are my serenity prayer – I may not always whisper the words to myself as I walk, but I feel alive and I feel a sense of calm alcohol robbed me of. Sure, I sometimes feel anxious but I put that down to being a human being. I just cannot refer every thought and emotion I have back to how alcohol seems to cause a defective behaviour in me. You know, I might react to something with surprise but it might not have any connection with my allergy to carrots, yet I felt that’s what AA was all about. Sometimes things just ARE. Sometimes things just happen – thoughts and emotions – because they are human reactions and not a symptom of something we need to analyse or purge. I found it all quite exhausting.

The other thing that struck me was something that is mentioned in the 12 steps. The bits about admitting our faults and making amends. That stuff.

Now, when I was drinking my whole existence revolved around alcohol – I was either blind drunk or hellishly hungover or busy planning to get drunk again. Everything else had to fit around those three states. As you can imagine, Everything Else didn’t get priority. When you’re drinking- Actually, let me rephrase: When you’re in active alcoholism – because there is a massive difference between how a non-alcoholic and an alcoholic drink – you are too busy to think or feel when it comes to Everything Else. Once you get sober, those things come a’knocking. For example, it’s since I quit drinking that I’ve finally been able to let some stuff go and forgive both myself and others. That stuff only happens when you finally have time for Everything Else again. It’s powerful stuff and as painful as life sometimes can be, it’s freakin’ amazing. I find myself now thinking about times when I’ve been selfish, in the wrong and downright awful and wanting to put all that right. To whatever extent I can, anyway. What AA prescribes in those steps – I wonder if those are things that happen NATURALLY once you get sober, if you only allow yourself to fully feel again? It seems to be going that way.

Aren’t we all, when we’re at our best and how we’re meant to be, wanting the best for ourselves and others? Don’t we all feel better righting wrongs and living the best way we can? Isn’t it wonderful to be able to help and support others? Once we have the chance to live again, I suspect that’s how we all end up. I think in essence, we’re all good. Aren’t we?

I want to start yoga for crying out loud! Why? Because suddenly I love the idea of going back to ME, peel away thoughts and strengthen my mind. I want to spread the word of sobriety (aka LIFE) because I feel I’ve happened upon something magical. I may not be subscribing to the AA word much anymore but isn’t it funny how it seems to be going in exactly that direction. Only the other day I was looking into what it’d entail to become a mentor to a young adult, young people who for whatever reason need support. I’m suddenly drawn to helping others as well as bettering myself. All the things that drinking stripped me of. I’m going to go out on a limb here and proclaim that I’m a good person and always was, but that’s somewhat irrelevant because no matter what or who you are alcohol will strip all of that away and leave no room for it anyway. It’s without alcohol I can finally live and be me, feel all emotions, acknowledge all thoughts and do all the things I was put on the planet to do, whatever those things are. It goes back to the simple stuff. I’m going for long walks every day because I love all the good it does for my mind, body and soul. I wash off my make-up before bed and put on a greasy night cream because it’s good for my skin to have the day washed off. I read as much as I used to once again because it’s so good for my mind to learn. And I have lots of love to give, not just for my son and husband or wider family and friends, but to pass forward too.

Life is fucking exciting when you allow yourself to fully live it. NOW.

Well. I’ll tell you what’s NOT exciting. My job. And I’d best get on with it now. My thoughts are pouring out of me but I’ll save it now for another day as I’ve rambled on far too long today.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Cinnamon and Cellulite

It’s a beautiful morning, the first few of a string of sunny days promised by the weather app. FINALLY! Never thought I’d say it, actually. I’m one of those weird people who really love autumn when it gets dark and cold – it spells over sized scarves (well, I’m Scandinavian after all), candle light, the scent of cinnamon and mulled wine to me. Well, I suppose it’ll be the alcohol free version for me when autumn rolls in again but that’s cool. And I love winter too, yet this must be the first time I’m truly glad to see the back of it – this one definitely over stayed its welcome. The park is beautiful now and during my long walk yesterday I caught myself smiling like a fool several times. The last time I was struck by the beauty of the park, well, that was just a week ago when it was shrouded in mist late one evening, but still – spring is finally here and it makes me feel light and carefree.

Except last night, that is. I didn’t feel light and carefree AT ALL. I have no idea what happened and I didn’t watch anything unpleasant or scary on TV before going to bed, nor is the book I’m currently reading a dark one, but I ended up first struggling to go to sleep and no amount of cuddling into hubby helped and then when I finally did go to sleep I ended up having nightmares. Horrible, menacing nightmares. Nothing too horrific, but my nightmares rarely are. It was pretty much what my nightmares tend to be when I have them, which, thank God, isn’t often: ordinary situations but there is a strong sense of foreboding, impending doom and danger looming close. Hubby and I were in a house and all power went. We were in bed so it didn’t really matter as we were meant to sleep but then there was the expectation that someone was in the house and I thought I was hearing noises. That’s it. That was my nightmare. It’s never an actual bad event, it’s the moments BEFORE, weirdly. It’s terrifying though. It’s the moment you realise something is wrong, that something terrible is about to happen and it’s too late to stop it or get away. Awful.

But hey ho, the sun is shining and given how tired I am chances are I’ll be out like a light this evening and sleep soundly again like sobriety has got me accustomed to. Yay sleep.

Not drinking and walking lots has meant I feel like a million dollars. I feel so good it’s ridiculous and it’s utterly lovely. Call me conceited and self absorbed but I think I can see it on the outside too and assume it’s my body’s response to no longer being poisoned. So over the weekend when hubby and I were out and about on our normal little adventures and road trips, I took a bit of time putting on a bit more make-up – it felt good to look at my reflection in the mirror and find my 42-yearold self smiling back at me with bright eyes and glowing skin. Well, OK, perhaps not glowing but MILES better from my drinking days. I felt good. I felt I looked good too. I don’t aspire to look 25 – because I’m not 25, so why would I – and I’ve never considered myself to be a breathtaking beauty, but I am me and I like me and at the moment I am feeling extra fantastic despite the fact that the editor of Vogue would probably deem me a haggard old crone. Who cares? I’m good enough.

Anyway.

There I was, walking around Boots to buy some, er, feminine care products. Oh fuck it, if you find tampons offensive, go read a different blog. I was looking for tampons, and also some Feminax as my fibroid – but youthful, apparently! – uterus was giving me hell. And there is was, the first time I have ever felt aware of ageing. Or rather, that it was a problem in any way.

Are they for your daughter?” the shop assistant asked me.

At first I didn’t understand what she was saying or where she was going with it. I genuinely couldn’t grasp what she was actually asking me.

Uhm, pardon?

Are you getting feminine products for your daughter?” she asked with a kind smile.

I was so taken aback I didn’t know what to say or do, just slowly shook my head and I know my mouth was open as I had to make a conscious effort to close it as I tried to compose myself. She must have realised and probably wanted the ground to open up and swallow her whole because she mumbled something and pointed at some shelves behind me. I know the feeling – one of my best friends showed up to our wedding celebration last summer with what appeared to be a baby bump and I congratulated her. Turned out she’d just put on a bit of weight. So I have all the sympathy in the world for that poor woman. I was absolutely overjoyed when I thought E was knocked up again (to the point that I was welling up when I shrieked OH MY GOD and ran to hug her and then proceeded to put a hand on her stomach) and this lady was a kind soul who probably has daughters herself and just wanted to give really good advice on the best products. Fact remains though, she had taken a look at me and decided I was clearly too old to still have periods and I felt utterly crushed.

I’ve never thought about it. I’ve never worried about it. I’ve never considered it an issue. There I was, feeling on top of the world, and then the next moment I glance at hubby and feel like I may as well have not bothered with make-up at all. I went from feeling ace to feeling destroyed in a flash. And it didn’t end there. As the guy at the till handed us the receipt, he also printed off a voucher.

This is for you,” he told me and pushed it across the counter for me with both hands with an air of reverence like it was a cheque for a million pounds, “in case you’d like to regain something you may have lost.

It was a voucher for No 7 anti-ageing serum.

He was friendly and only meant well just like his colleague so I returned his smile but on the inside I broke a little. I’d managed 42 years. Out of those I’d say a good 15 during which friends the same age as me worried about ageing yet I never did, not once – not because I looked any younger or better or thought I did but because the idea just never entered my mind. I never had any problem with going through life and its stages. In fact, if anything, I think I’m prettier now in my 40s than I was in my 20s – I look better with a bit of living leaving its traces. I looked about 13 until I was approaching 30 so as crazy as it may sound, I always welcomed those laughter lines. My frown ones too! I’ve happily greeted them all. Yet, there I was, I’d only come in to make a quick purchase and yet within the space of five minutes I’d been reduced to rubble and been equipped with a set of insecurities and misgivings I’ve never given thought to before. Bloody hell. Talk about being deflated.

Still. I sort of forgot about it and the following morning I felt good again as I walked around the park, having left the house NOT feeling fat or old or ugly or whatever all these youth serums, treatments and concealers are advertised to make me think. But then it happened all over again later that afternoon when hubby and I were at the mall. I went up to a shop keeper to ask where the men’s All Saints store is located as we couldn’t find it. She didn’t know but grabbed me by the hand and pulled me in behind the counter.

Let me put something on your eyes,” she told me chirpily and then winked at hubby, “this will make her look 20 years younger!

Hubby looked pleased and that’s when I lost it. I stopped in my tracks and bore my eyes into her stupid little 20-something face.

I don’t want anything put on me, thank you. I like 42.

She smiled uneasily, unsure what to do next and I felt my cheeks burn of humiliation as a group of 20-something men nearby stifled some giggles.

I get it, I really do. She’s on minimum wage and her job is to go in for the hard sell and convince us women on the other side of puberty that we need to look younger, thinner, smoother and all the other things Instagram has filters to achieve. Those products she’s selling are great, I’ll give her that – I have several Onsen cleansers and other bits on my bathroom shelf and it’s lovely stuff – and I don’t think it was her intention to further reinforce my newly found insecurities, but fuck me, that just about did it. May as well cut my hair into a short old lady hairstyle, dye it a nice grey, blue-ish colour and sleep with rollers in it to make it nice and poofy, ignore the platform espadrilles I had my eye on and get a pair of comfortable Ecco shoes instead. And never bother with make-up again as it clearly is too late for me to even THINK there’s a point in accentuating features I should be hiding or improving. Like my eyes, that she wanted to put something on. My eyes are probably one of the things I like the most about my outside. They were the very thing the little bitch wanted to alter.

But fuck’em. I do wish they’d refrain from unsolicited “help” with ageing and suss out which ones of us are actually looking for products that we’re meant to believe will help us recapture days long gone instead of assuming everyone over 22 is unhappy in their skin. I was fine in mine, ta very much. I’m no painting but this is my face and I like it. It doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth for me to approve of my image. I’m 42 years old, I have lived and I have these laughter lines because I’ve spent a lot of all that living laughing and smiling. So fuck you, Onsen chick – go take 20 years off someone else because I’ve loved all of mine, all 42 of them and you can’t take a single one of them from me, and if you can’t bear the sight of me you can look the other way if all this smiling I’ve done offends you. But wow! It had to happen sooner or later though, that someone would suggest I look old and/or that I need to look younger, it seems to be the way of the world, doesn’t it? Here’s me thinking my 40s are my best years in all respects including the lines on my face (which I actually, hand on heart LIKE because they are part of me – so bite me) only to be shot down by a pubescent sales girl whose greatest fear in life is reaching the other side of 30. But hey, those three shop people – The Age Police – just caught me off guard, that’s all, plus you might argue three separate incidents within the space of 48 hours was harsh at best and especially so when I felt a million bucks. I think I’d been less hurt by it if I’d strolled out in my PJs with not a scrap of make-up on but this was me after I’d made an effort and thought I looked pretty damn good. Ouch.

None of that matters though, it’s – as they say – skin deep and who I am isn’t do to with laughter lines or cellulite. Inside I feel strong and healthy and with no alcohol and all this walking I feel equally strong in my body. It’s an amazing feeling, even after a night of nightmares, to wake up and feel WELL. Still very much perched right here up on my Pink Cloud and sometimes I wonder when it’ll wear off, given feeling well is something that makes me so happy it makes me giggle, and surely how you feel on a daily basis is something you eventually stop to notice? Who knows. And who cares?

Today I’m not going to drink.

Fireworks and Coffins

I’m like a sponge. I don’t know why but I seem to be super susceptible to other people’s moods and behaviour and soak every last vibe up – I think that’s why I found that AA meetings could really bring me down sometimes. I’d walk away wanting to shake my fellow drunks and shout at them to be freaking grateful for those empty glasses. Genuinely, why aren’t AA meetings full on celebrations that we’re free of the alcohol prison? Why aren’t they gatherings where we all jump around with joy, set off fireworks and wear party hats? Instead we sit there and complain sobriety is hard when we’re all there because we could no longer live with drinking. Fuck me. No wonder they’re solemn affairs. And Sophie the super sponge can turn up in the sunniest of moods and walk away an hour later feeling uneasy, worried and a little low.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying you have to be happy and cheerful all the time. My Dad is, and after a while it gets really tiring. The dude even finds a silver lining when someone bloody DIES. No, honestly – a relative of his wife’s keeled over and died on the spot from a blood clot in the brain. BOOM. My Dad’s view? He was sad of course but he also pointed out what a great way it was to go and how he’ll be very pleased if he gets to die quickly and on the spot, nothing worse than being ill and taking years to die in a hospital bed hooked up to machines to keep you alive. OK, he had a point, but even so, just fucking throw a rose on the coffin like everybody else and save that thought for a more appropriate time. The man is insane. And like father, like daughter but I don’t think I’m as unbearably happy as he is (if there is such a thing as unbearable happiness) – I have morning grumps and when I’m hormonal I can get inexplicably low and moody. I don’t seem to have been equipped with patience either and will bite your head off if you don’t immediately see what I deem to be the most efficient and practical way of doing something. So anyway, what I wanted to emphasise is I love and appreciate the full spectrum of human emotion – the whole damn register.

But there is a difference between feeling low about SOMEthing and having a negative view of EVERYthing. And I’m not talking about depression here, which condemns its sufferers to a permanently low place – that’s an illness and as it happens one that my best friend in the world suffers from and has battled for years. So I’m not referring to ILLNESS – I’m talking about ATTITUDE here. Big difference.

So there’s this colleague of mine. I’ve worked here for two and a half years. I see her every day. As you do, I ask her how she is when we say good morning. Not once has she ever turned around with a big smile and told me GREAT! Not a single time. Instead this sad little smile that tells me she feels incredibly hard done by and a hand gesture to illustrate so-so. She immediately saps me of energy and I find myself get irritated by her constant whining about how badly life has treated her. Sure, she’s told me some stuff that must have been a bit crappy but nothing worse than anyone else I know. Whiny Pants focuses on all the things that haven’t gone right and what has gone her way she dismisses as anomalies. It’s so frustrating to listen to. Butler, butler! Help! My diamond shoes are too tight! Fine – we all sometimes get in a mood, feel bristly or irritable or whatever and we have all to some extent wallowed in self pity because sometimes that feels really good, but then there are people like Whiny Pants who could win a million and then complain that she couldn’t get her Ferrari in the exact shade of pink that she wanted. Honestly, the chick does my head in and she can affect my mood within 10 seconds of conversation. When I can afford it I’m going to invest in a string quartet that’s going to follow her around and play sad melodies every time she opens her mouth.

As it happens, I haven’t seen Whiny Pants around yet this morning. I do try to bite my tongue when she rattles off all her hardships to me but earlier this week I couldn’t hold back and suggested perhaps she should look on the bright side. I doubt she liked that. People who wallow as a hobby don’t like the idea of finding the positives as it robs them of their martyrdom so perhaps she’s avoiding me. Plus, if you feel rubbish about everything the last thing you probably need is an annoying Swede talking about how fucking great everything is. BUT IT IS!!!!! I can’t help it. Perhaps I should be punished for being so blessed, I really am so utterly lucky and thoroughly spoilt by fate. Well, Mother Nature is usually quite fair and I’m just days from my period, which these days is a living hell due to something called fibrosis that means that my cramps feel like early labour and are sometimes so severe I throw up. The consultant who gave me all the good pills for it told me she’d suggest a hysterectomy if I were ten years older. “You have a young uterus,” she told me and cited it as a reason to not get rid of my bun baking equipment. Honestly, it gets so bad these days that I want to reach into my own body, yank out that youthful fucking uterus and thrown it at someone. Truly.

Oh yeah – blog about not drinking! I’m not drinking. I feel good. Done.

In other news, I got my results from the tube of spit I sent to Ancestry.com. I’m surprised they managed to do anything with it because I was drinking coffee at the time and it ended up having a dodgy brownish tint. Anyway. It was every bit as boring as I was hoping it wouldn’t be – I’d hoped I had some exotic and mysterious royal arabic or maori blood or something equally exciting, but oh no – 82% Scandinavian, 11% Finnish and a fraction British and west European. My ancestry is as dull as dishwater, it turns out. Will arrange for hubby to do one too. Already know he will have the Netherlands and Norway show up, but who knows what that sexy kiwi might have going on – I’d love to find out what that perfect DNA storm looks like.

Today I’m not going to drink. Except coffee. I’m going to drink lots of coffee.